Three intelligence officials had expressed concerns during a closed door meeting about the possibility that Russia has already taken steps to affect the outcome of the 2020 election. Many members of the media have commented extensively on this possibility in the days following. They are concerned about the Trump administration’s preparation for the presidential election and they hope proper steps are being taken to secure the integrity of the process.
The members of the intelligence community who spoke out about their worries have asked to remain anonymous for security issues and due to the sensitivity of the information. However, they did make a clear statement that they believe Russia is already making efforts to create discord in the 2020 election. The Washington Post and The New York Times were the first two media outlets to report on this possibility. A senior official within the Trump administration said that the news “infuriated” him because Democrats would be poised to begin making new accusations against him immediately, shortly after the conclusion of the impeachment process. Trump also dismissed the information about Russian interference in the 2016 election as a conspiracy theory.
Trump has reacted strongly and swiftly within his staff based on these accusations. He has already planned to replace director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire with Richard Grenell, who knows Trump personally. This was announced within the first day after the information was disclosed in the private meeting, however Maguire was required to step down soon anyway, so it is unclear whether this was done for political reasons or not.
Republicans dismiss these accusations and claim no real evidence supports them
Despite these concerns, Mike Pence’s chief of Staff Marc Short has stated that there is absolutely no intelligence showing that Russia is interfering to get Trump elected. Short said that the intelligence community is already aware of the long-term threat of foreign interference in elections, and that everyone is prepared.
He also commented that the Trump administration has actually sanctioned Russia more than any other U.S. President since Reagan in the 1980s, so it would not make sense for them to desire his re-election. Other Republican lawmakers such as Shelby Pierson, also echoed these sentiments by saying that Trump’s record on Russia has been consistent and tough. Critics claim that Trump’s decision to delay military aid to Russia’s bordering nations and his fondness for Vladimir Putin undermine these arguments.
The election interference narrative
The U.S. intelligence community had previously reported that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through social media accounts, as well as theft and distribution of Democrat party members’ emails. According to U.S. intelligence officials these efforts were meant to assist Trump by creating chaos and distributing misinformation. Robert Muller’s long investigation into these matters did find efforts to affect the outcome of the election by Russians, but was unable to prove a criminal conspiracy to do so that involved Trump.
Russia interference in the 2016 national election remained a mainstay in the media for approximately three years and the investigation resulted in criminal charges against several individuals, including Roger Stone. As the next presidential election approaches it is apparent that similar concerns will arise and become a fixture in the news again.